AFRICANGLOBE – The emerging lead-in-water crisis in Newark, New Jersey has many similarities to the Flint, Michigan water poisoning which began five years ago.
Above all, Flint is known world-wide as the city where government officials criminally conspired to allow residents to drink lead-poisoned water for 18 months before even acknowledging the problem. Similarly, Newark city officials knew that high levels of lead had been detected in drinking fountains at public school buildings as early as 2010, and discovered elevated lead levels after citywide testing of home taps began in 2017.
Lead is a highly dangerous neurotoxin that can attack any system in the body when ingested, even in low dosages. Lead at any level is not safe. Once in the system, it cannot be removed. It can stunt growth and cause neurological damage, especially in children, who are the most vulnerable.
In 2014, state and local government officials disconnected Flint from its reliable source of treated drinking water for 50 years, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department using treated water from Lake Huron, and pushed the button that switched to improperly treated water from the Flint River.
Five years after the crisis erupted, residents of the city north of Detroit are still fighting for clean water. I spoke this week to three long-time Flint residents about the failure of government officials to provide clean, safe water and the lessons of their fight for the residents of Newark.
Mary Miller, a retired auto worker, recounted the following. “The situation in Flint did not happen overnight. The Flint River became contaminated by General Motors after years of pouring chemicals from the plant drains into the river. Growing up, it was a running joke that you didn’t use anything from the Flint River. You didn’t even fish there. It was known to everyone. Several members of my family lived on one block in a Flint neighborhood on St. John Street. General Motors stole our neighborhood way back when they built Buick City, which is now closed. They bought everything up and threw us out. They took our livelihoods, our families, our schools, and then our health.
“When the politicians switched to the Flint River in 2014, we couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t their families being poisoned. Instead, in Flint and Newark, it’s the workers who are made to suffer.”
Referring to the fact that Newark officials knew the drinking fountains in the public schools had high levels of lead as far back as 2010, Mary noted, “Even when the officials were aware, they did not do anything. We the residents suffer. It’s heartbreaking. There needs to be an overhaul of everything. The same people are allowing the same thing to happen over and over. It’s proof that we don’t matter to them. We pay high rates for bad water and taxes, and we don’t have clean water. You can’t trust the government but you can’t fix the water by yourself.”
By: Sheila Brehm